Self-Destructive Pleasures, Privacy, Fundraising, and More
Radio Q&A: 13 May 2012
I answered questions on self-destructive pleasures, privacy in a high-tech society, pushy fundraising, browsing locally then buying online, and more on 13 May 2012. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.
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Segments: 13 May 2012
Question: It is wrong to pursue self-destructive pleasures? Suppose that you know that drinking to excess is not good for your mind or body, but you want to enjoy the oblivion of drunkenness. Or perhaps you know that sleeping with your ex-girlfriend is a very bad idea, but you want the pleasure of sex with a warm body. Is it wrong to pursue these pleasures, if you're willing to accept their destructive consequences?
Answer, In Brief: To live morally means to pursue your life and your values with gusto, not jump into the gutter. To yearn for self-destructive pleasures indicates psychological problems in need of fixing.
Question: Do you have the right to privacy with respect to information that I can gather about you from observation of you while I'm on my own property? For instance, if I have technology that allows me to gather photons or sound waves that you emit from your property while I'm sitting on my property next door, can I post that information on YouTube or Facebook? For example, imagine that I have an infrared video of your activities emitted through your bedroom wall or the audio of your personal phone conversation that can be detected by sensitive microphones from 100 yards away. Have I violated your rights by gathering and publicizing information you've chosen to allow to be broadcast to anyone who can detect it with the right equipment?
Answer, In Brief: Privacy is a value, and the law ought to recognize a fact-based distinction between private and public activities. The line should likely be drawn at what's perceptible by the unaided senses or perceptible with ordinary technology.
Question: How should I respond to the constant demands to contribute to fundraisers from my child's school? I am barraged with "requests" for contributions to school fundraisers. This week, for example, each student in the band is asked to put together a "buddy bag" with sweets (against my views), a toy (more plastic junk to fill the landfills), and a gift (I can't afford that). Every week, there's another fundraiser, for which parents are asked to spend their money on things they don't value or aren't a fair value. Should I refuse these requests – and if so, how should I do so?
Answer, In Brief: Be a good role model for your kids: recognize that you're not obliged to contribute, establish your own standards for contribution, and be firm and clear in communicating what you're willing to do (or not) to others.
Question: Is it wrong to browse in a local store but then buy online? Suppose that you shop for an item in a brick-and-mortar store, taking advantage of the opportunity to browse and get recommendations from staff, but then make your purchases at a discounted online retailer – for example, browsing through a local bookstore but then buying from Amazon at a lower price. Is that wrong or unfair?
Answer, In Brief: It's not wrong to buy online after browsing in a local store, provided that it's done honestly – just as it's not wrong to check out reviews online, but then buy in a local store. Be a self-interested consumer!
Rapid Fire Questions (46:35)
- What should you do when you suspect that friends or acquaintances are depending on your opinion in second-handed ways?
- Why would an egoist want to live in society?
- What are some resources to communicate with tact and being more clear?
- Is it wrong to "throw away your vote" on a candidate without any hope of being elected?
- If the government didn't own the roads, who would set and enforce traffic laws?
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About Philosophy in Action
I'm Dr. Diana Brickell (formerly Diana Hsieh). I'm a philosopher, and I've long specialized in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I completed my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. I retired from work as a public intellectual in 2015.
From September 2009 to September 2015, I produced a radio show and podcast, Philosophy in Action Radio. In the primary show, my co-host Greg Perkins and I answered questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life. We broadcast live over the internet on Sunday mornings.
My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck." My second book (and online course), Explore Atlas Shrugged, is a fantastic resource for anyone wishing to study Ayn Rand's epic novel in depth.
I can be reached via e-mail to email@example.com.